Mind Genomics: The science of everyday experience and its application to food
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- 1. Mind Genomics: The Science of everyday experience and its application to food Howard Moskowitz Michele Reisner firstname.lastname@example.orgIntroduction the world of the everydayAs food science, food technology, and food design and development mature, we see anincreasing emphasis on the mantra understand the consumer. At the end of the day, of course, itswhat the consumer feels about what the industry offers, and how the industry behaves in criticalsituations thats going to make a difference. We can pride ourselves on technological and nutritionalprowess, on hygiene and safety, on variety, but its really up to the consumer to tell us with hisdollar vote whether our offerings and our behaviors are ok or not.Seventy years ago the food industry woke up to the need to please consumers. It was nolonger a situation of make it and they will come. People had to like what was offered. And thepower of the consumer grew from there. Its no surprise, then, that by the 1950s the industry wasdeeply into describing the sensations produced by a food, with the hope of learning just whatsensations would make a product a success. Nor is it a surprise that by 1960s widespreadacceptance testing was the norm; a food had to score well on a standard scale, e.g., the 9-pointhedonic scale. And the story goes on, from description to testing, and now to getting insights aboutfood using ethnography. The goal; understand the food more profoundly, acquire insights, create abetter product, and succeed in the marketplace.And thats where this new science, Mind Genomics, comes in. Simply stated, MindGenomics is the science of everyday experience. Mind Genomics works by a research tool, RDE,rule developing experimentation. RDE creates vignettes about a food, vignettes written as if theywere small, easy to read advertisements, like Figure 1. And, then presenting these vignettes toconsumers, getting their reactions, and figuring out just what elements, or more specifically, whatparts of these vignettes, drive interest.Figure 1: Example of a vignette
- 2. We could, of course, instruct our consumers to rate each of the elements in Figure 1, oneelement at a time, but the reality is by doing so we allow the consumer to game his answers, toadjust the ratings to what he or she believes the interviewer wants to hear. Mix and match theelements about a food experience, like we see in Figure 1, and the consumer respondent can nolonger game the interview. Faced with the demand to rate these vignettes, one vignette afteranother, the consumer quickly relaxes, more or less in the way many people relax while shoppingfor food, and gives intuitive answers, ratings from the gut, ratings assigned without much mentalediting. The best way to understand Mind Genomics and its tool, RDE, is by examples. In the rest ofthis article well illustrate what Mind Genomics can teach us about products, about mind-sets, aboutresponses to crises, and even about innovation. Our three illustrative case histories follow thesimilar paths, these five steps:1. What is the problem? What are we looking for what works in a product, identify a mind-set of like minded consumers, or even invent a new product? The problems may sound different but in the world of Mind Genomics they can be answered with the same tool.2. Whats the raw material? Mind Genomics works by mixing/matching ideas, presenting the ideas, getting responses to the vignettes, and deconstructing the responses to the components. So the key here is the ideas. But, theres another caveat. That caveat is its better to be 75%
- 3. correct and on time then 100% right but late. Or, in simpler terms, just do the experiment. Dontworry about being right todays internet-based tool, RDE, returns with data in 12-24 hours, soyou can always redo the experiment.3. What is the question that the respondent is instructed to answer? When a person reads a vignette, a combination of ideas, whats he supposed to be thinking? Does he like what he reads? What about the emotion he feels when he reads? Or whats the price hed pay, or would he buy it at all? These are all valid responses.4. What are we looking for in the data? Analysis is all important. Fortunately, Mind Genomics is based upon experimental design. Its not necessary to be clever, to invent new methods. Follow experimental design to lay out the vignettes, use ordinary least squares regression, a true workhorse, to get the impacts of the elements, and youre almost done!5. What about segments? The hallmark of Mind Genomics is that people are different. We may think they are the same, but people react to the same information quite differently. Mind Genomics looks for groups of people who are similar to each other in the way they respond to ideas. These are mind-set segments. Know the mind-set segment of a person, and you know what to create for that person, and how to communicate to that person. Case history #1 What works?We begin with the simple question when we describe a food, just what types of ideasresonate with consumers. Our topic cheese. We might ask consumers to tell us, but then they tellus that brands are important, and so forth. Giving them the chance to rate the elements one at atime, and theyre likely to change their criterion as they move from brand to product feature tohealth feather, and so forth.Lets try something different. Lets mix and match 36 elements, or bite size pieces ofinformation as we like to refer to them, together to create 60 vignettes, similar in structure toFigure 1, with each respondent evaluating a unique set of 60 vignettes. These 60 vignettes comprisethe same 36 elements, with the same element appearing in different combinations, against differentbackgrounds. Thats the beautiful thing of using a design of experiments; it does all the work ofcreating these unique vignettes for us. No two people see the same set of vignettes. The RDE toolwill enable each respondent to see and rate each vignette as a totality, a gestalt, one vignette at atime,. Then, to make interpreting easy for everyone concerned, we will transform our data. Insteadof working with a graded scale that is often hard for managers to understand, we will work withtwo points; 0 (I dont like the vignette, corresponding to ratings of 1-6), and 100 (I like the vignette,corresponding to ratings of 7-9).In practice the process is straightforward:1. Assemble the elements, and allocate them to silos (groups of related ideas). For cheese, and for this particular study, we will we will work with four silos, each with nine elements. The notion of silos and elements is a bookkeeping device, to ensure that elements of a similar type, but with contradictory messages, dont appear together in the same vignette.2. Invite the respondent to participate by a short email invitation, usually sent from a reputable field service so the email doesnt end up in the spam box.
- 4. 3. Orient the respondent. Respondents arent necessarily accustomed to reading sets of 3-4 phrases and rating them as a gestalt. They need a moments instruction. They get it pretty quickly, once they realize that they have to rate all of the elements in the vignette as a single entity, almost like a short concept or advertisement.4. Present the vignettes, one at a time, get the ratings, and convert the ratings to the binary 0/100. Figure 1 showed us what a vignette looks like.5. Use OLS (ordinary least squares) regression to create an equation showing how each of the 36 elements drives the response (0=uninterested, 100=interested).So what did we find? Mind Genomics emerges from these studies with results that areblindingly clear. Lets look at just a few of these results in Table 1. Table 1 shows the performanceof the elements emerging after we related the presence/absence of the elements to the binaryrating 0 (original rating 1-6) or 100 (original rating 7-9).Table 1: How 36 elements for cheese perform, based upon a Mind Genomics study. Datafrom Healthy You!, Courtesy It! Ventures, LLC. Base size of 241 Additive constant (basic interest in cheese = 49 Strong performersIrrelevant performers The classic, traditional flavor of your favorite mozzarella, cheddar or American An important natural source of cheese 12protein2 The robust and zesty flavor of your favorite Endorsed by the American Heart aged cheese10Association2Builds and maintains strong bones2Endorsed by the American DieteticAssociation2Modest performers All natural...no artificial flavors, no preservatives7 From Borden1Such pleasure ... knowing youre Made with the freshest ingredients 6 eating something healthy 1 Provides essential vitamins your body needs, including A, D, B12, and riboflavin 6 100% organic 1 From Kraft...Cracker Barrel brand6 A quick and easy addition to any meal 1 An essential source of the nutrients that are important for heart health likeA food you feel good about feeding potassium, magnesium, and folic acid 5 your family0 A naturally good source of calcium 5 Even better for you than you thought 0 May reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke4 Recommended by your doctor 0Recommended by nutritionists and Healthy eating that tastes great 4 dieticians 0 From Sargento4 Soft, smooth, and velvety cheese 4Poor performers Contains 13 vitamins and minerals your Fills that empty spot in youjust body needs 3 when you want it-1 Endorsed by the American Diabetes Association3 Lowfatonly 2g fat per serving-1 As part of a low fat, low cholesterol diet,3 Dense, crumbly and firm -3
- 5. may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer Contains essential omega-3 fatty acids,With inulin known to improve which may reduce your risk of heartcalcium absorption and improve disease3 digestion-3Calms you downjust what you need From Land OLakes3 when youre feeling stressed -4 With ingredients that restore and maintain Made with plant sterol esters a healthy balance in your digestive system 3 clinically proven to lower cholesterol -96. We start wi